Students’ voting rights targeted in North Carolina

Students' voting rights targeted in North Carolina
Students' voting rights targeted in North Carolina

Now that North Carolina Republicans hold all the reins of power in state government for the first time in over a century, they’ve making up for lost time. Just over the last few months, GOP state policymakers have gutted unemployment benefits, cut funding for struggling public schools, blocked Medicaid expansion, repealed the Racial Justice Act, and crafted TRAP laws intended to close nearly every women’s health clinic in the state.

What’s next? Voting rights, of course.

Resurrecting one of the legislative session’s most contentious issues, Senate Republicans unveiled a new voter ID bill Thursday that would further restrict the forms of photo identification accepted at the polls.

The new measure would require voters to show one of seven types of photo identification issued by the government, such as driver’s licenses, passports, non-driver IDs and military or veteran cards.

There’s a major exception to that list.

Remember, as Rachel has noted on the show recently, North Carolina Republicans were prepared to scale back their proposed voting restrictions, assuming they’d never be cleared by the Justice Department under the Voting Rights Act. But now that five U.S. Supreme Court justices have gutted the civil-rights law, the North Carolina GOP is eager to do precisely what they wanted to do in the first place.

Of particular interest to state Republicans is curbing the youth vote. My colleague Laura Conaway has reported extensively on Ohio Republicans’ efforts to approve a voter-ID system that prohibits the use of student IDs – an effort that proved to be so indefensible that GOP policymakers in the Buckeye State eventually backed off.

North Carolina appears to be picking up where Ohio left off.

As The Nation’s Ari Berman reported yesterday, the latest version of the pending voting restrictions prohibits the use of student IDs as a recognized form of identification.

Why? According to state Sen. Tom Apodaca (R), the bill’s chief sponsor, college IDs “could be manipulated.” Does Apodaca have any evidence of anyone, anywhere ever using a manipulated student ID to commit voter fraud? No, but he and his party are pushing this line anyway.

Berman added:

According to the state’s own numbers, 316,000 registered voters don’t have state-issued ID; 34 percent are African-American and 55 percent are registered Democrats. Of the 138,000 voters without ID who cast a ballot in the 2012 election, 36 percent were African-American and 59 registered percent Democrats. The new draft of the bill does not allow student IDs for voting, making it among the most restrictive laws in the country. […]

The actions of the North Carolina legislature are a case study for why Congress needs to revitalize Sections 4 and 5 of the VRA and strengthen other parts of the law.

One wonders if Congress is paying attention.

Incidentally note that since 2000, there are exactly two incidents involving voter impersonation in North Carolina, out of several million votes cast. We’re not talking about two percent; we’re talking about two individual people.

Republican policymakers in the state are eager to solve a problem that doesn’t exist, apparently because they hope voting restrictions will help the GOP win elections.

North Carolina, Voter Id and War On Voting

Students' voting rights targeted in North Carolina